Veganism and health through the prism of science

Every now and then, we can see a documentary in the media that says that if our value is health, we must give up virtually all products of animal origin. There are also more and more personal stories and testimonies of celebrities about the benefits of giving up animal products and a complete transition to a plant or vegan diet.

Although the vast majority of the Western world does not have an innate idea of ​​abstinence from animal foods, interest in a diet based on plant-based foods has grown significantly in recent years. With the increased interest in plant-based diets, the market and supply of vegan foods has also increased. There are more and more restaurants that serve exclusively plant dishes, and in stores you can buy substitutes for practically every product of animal origin, from vegetable eggs, cheese and milk to plant collagen.

Above all, many forms of burgers, hot dogs, sausages, steaks and all other traditional meat dishes. These are more and more reminiscent of meat in appearance and taste, so various preparations are popular both among people who do not eat meat, as well as among those who have it regularly on the menu, but want to try an alternative. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that more than 80% of the population who opt for plant-based diets start eating meat again after a certain period of time. The reasons for the plant-based diet are varied, but can be broadly defined as health, environmental, ethical, religious, and cultural.

On top of that, science discovered many health benefits at the end of the 20th and in the 21st century, potentially related to reducing meat consumption, and the practice of plant-based diets around the world has attracted more and more followers. The purpose of this paper is to answer key questions about veganism and individual health, the impact of veganism on longevity, and the potential benefits and risks of such a diet through the prism of “science.”

Different forms of plant nutrition

A plant-based diet is a term for dietary patterns that exclude animal products. Depending on the degree of abstinence, we distinguish several variants of plant nutrition. The vegan diet excludes all products of animal origin, including honey. An even more extreme form of veganism is overeating, in which the temperatures at which food is processed are below 48 ° C.

Other, less restrictive versions allow the consumption of certain foods of animal origin, such as eggs (vegetarianism) or dairy products (lacto vegetarianism) or both (lacto vegetarianism), while the least stringent variants also allow the consumption of seafood such as pesketarianism. A common feature of all these diets is the consumption of a variety of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, seeds, herbs, spices, mushrooms, algae and vegetable oils.

In terms of nutritional value, a plant-based diet is usually rich in carbohydrates and omega-6 fatty acids and less saturated fat, rich in dietary fiber, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium, and relatively poor in protein, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and B12 and the mineral zinc.

Depending on the type of plant-based diet, the availability of these nutrients can vary considerably. Of course, the relative ratios of different plant foods can vary greatly even within a certain type of plant-based diet, as can the amount of processed plant products and the types and amounts of substitutes consumed, which in turn affects energy and nutrient density and diet.

A well-planned plant-based diet with whole foods is associated with many health benefits, but excluding all animal products from the diet increases the risk of deficiency of certain nutrients. Vegans should pay special attention to essential micronutrients, including vitamins B12 and D3, calcium, zinc and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, so it is recommended to take dietary supplements.

Leave a Reply